Saturday, March 5, 2011

*we built this city, we built this city, we built this city on.... er.... sand*

It occurs to me that unless you've visited the UAE, you wouldn't necessarily know that there is much to the place other than Dubai and if you've sat through the atrocity that is Sex And The City II, the capital, Abu Dhabi.  Incidentally, that was filmed in Morocco, not Abu Dhabi.  There is no way the authorities would allow a film with "sex" in the title to be filmed here.  At least that's what I've been told by some wise teachers who were visiting from Qatar (of which more later*).

Being the adventurous types, we've already ventured outside the Disneyland confines of Dubai and visited Fujairah (well that was to get to Oman)  and the oasis town of Al Ain which is part of the emirate of Abu Dhabi. 

The reasons for our visit to the small emirate of Ajman (drive north from Dubai through Sharjah and keep going) were somewhat complicated but to cut a long story short, it was to do with the fact that UK newspapers seem to want stories about the demise of the meteoric economic rise of the UAE (really Dubai) and someone told us that there were tons of abandoned building projects with cranes, scaffolding etc rusting in the harsh desert conditions. 

This turned out of course not to be true, or at least if it is, the Sand Warlock and I couldn't find them.  Maybe we could have found them if the temperature hadn't suddenly heated up to about 38 degrees and we couldn't cope with wondering around looking any more.

One thing we did spot was this fed up looking chap:


When we first drove past him he was standing up.  I think the heat got a bit much for him, which is something, considering he's a camel.  I'm not sure how I feel about seeing this animal kept in a pen on a hot beach.  I don't know what he's normally used for as there was no one on the beach for camel rides.  Maybe we were there at a quiet time.  Perhaps he's usually trotting up and down the sand with families of icecream slurping kids on his back.  I suppose in the owner's defence, the natural habit of a camel is toasty warm and at least he had a bit of shade.

Although we didn't spot any abandoned building projects, there were several that didn't seem to be being completed with the same speed that they are in Dubai.  

I got the feeling in Ajman that its Sheikhs would probably have liked it to be like Dubai had they thought of it first before the economy went to pants and they had to be bailed out by Abu Dhabi.  It's tiny in comparison to this place but you get the impression they were planning to get geared up for tourism and are still hoping for a slice of the pie as there is already one luxury hotel in place and the new building projects appear to be hotels and apartments.  It's almost as if Ajman is Dubai pre-boom.  If our brief wonder through the back streets are anything to go by, they haven't got the hang of efficient sewage disposal yet.  The stench was so bad that I gagged. 

I can't predict whether the hotels they were building will ever have guests or the apartments will ever be occupied.  I somehow doubt it if they can't sort out the sewage.  Such is the economic optimism of the country even post-boom, I expect they'll pull it off somehow. 

*We had dinner and a few drinks with a friend of a friend plus two friends who are teaching in Doha, capital of Qatar who filled us in on some interesting facts about the country which is a short hop across the Gulf from here.  Like Dubai, it has a big ex-pat community but is less "happening".  There are no pavements.  People drive everywhere.  Plastic surgery is available on their equivalent of the NHS.  Like Dubai, you can experience the sinful excesses of the west in the shape of boozy brunches at posh hotels and this sits along side the relatively strict local adherence to Islam.  Ie, the newspapers are full of adverts requesting "Muslim woman of marriageable age" to make a match with people's sons.  I have yet to see that here but I suspect I might see it if I could read the Arabic language papers.  Really must dust off the text book.  

   

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